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Glucagon (injectable hormone)

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Pharmacology

Updated Jun 11, 2021

Glucagon is a hormone naturally found in the body. It corrects hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and has the opposite effect of insulin. It is also relaxes the stomach and intestines, so it can be used as a diagnostic aid for radiologic exams.


Know the basics

What is glucagon used for?

Glucagon is a hormone that increases blood sugar levels. It is naturally produced by the pancreas but the glucagon used as a drug is synthesized in a lab and is identical to the naturally produced glucagon. It also slows involuntary muscle movements of the stomach and intestines that aid in digestion.

Glucagon is used to treat hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). It is also used during a radiologic (x-ray) examination to help diagnose certain disorders of the stomach or intestines.

How should I take glucagon?

Glucagon is injected under the skin, into a muscle, or into a vein. You will be shown how to use emergency glucagon injections for severe hypoglycemia. Call your doctor after each time you use a glucagon injection.

Hypoglycemia should be treated as quickly as possible. Having low blood sugar for too long can cause seizure, coma, or death.

After the injection, you should eat a source of sugar (fruit juice, glucose gel, raisins, non-diet soda) and then eat a snack or small meal such as cheese and crackers or a meat sandwich.

Glucagon is a powder medicine that must be mixed with a liquid (diluent) before using it. Prepare your dose in a syringe only when you are ready to give an injection. Do not use the medication if it has changed colors or has particles in it. Mix a new dose, and call your doctor for instructions if the second dose also has particles after mixing.

If you are a caregiver, get emergency medical help after giving a glucagon injection. If the patient does not wake up within 15 minutes, you may need to mix a new dose and give a second injection.

Ask your doctor how to adjust your diabetes medication dose if needed. Do not change your medication dose or schedule without your doctor’s advice.

How do I store glucagon?

Glucagon is best stored in a cool place at 20-25°C (68 to 77°F). To prevent drug damage, do not freeze it or expose it to light.

There may be different brands of this drug that may have different storage needs. So, it is important to always check the product package for instructions on storage, or ask your pharmacist. For safety, you should keep all medicines away from children and pets.

You should not flush this product down the toilet or pour them into a drain unless instructed to do so. Additionally, it is important to properly discard this product when it is expired or no longer needed. Consult your pharmacist for more details about how to safely discard your product.

Know the precautions & warnings

What should I know before using glucagon?

Before using this drug, tell your doctor if you are/have:

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Taking any other medicines. This includes any prescription, OTC, and herbal remedies.
  • An allergy to any of the ingredients of this product.
  • Any other illnesses, disorders, or medical conditions.

Is it safe to take glucagon during pregnancy or breast-feeding?

Unfortunately, there isn’t enough information about the safety of using this drug during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Please always consult with your doctor to weigh the potential benefits and risks before taking this medication.

This medication is pregnancy risk category B according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

FDA pregnancy risk category reference below:

  • A=No risk
  • B=No risk in some studies
  • C=There may be some risk
  • D=Positive evidence of risk
  • X=Contraindicated
  • N=Unknown

Know the side effects

What are the side effects of glucagon?

Like all drugs, Gaviscon may have side effects. If they occur, side effects are generally mild and resolve once treatment is finished or the dose is lowered. Some reported side effects include:

  • Allergic reaction
  • GI disturbances
  • Hypokalemia (low potassium)
  • Respiratory distress
  • Secondary hypoglycemia

However, not everyone experiences these side effects. In addition, some people may experience other side effects. So, if you have any concerns about a side effect, please consult your doctor or pharmacist.

Know the interactions

What drugs may interact with glucagon?

This medication may interact with other drugs that you are currently taking, which can change how your drug works or increase your risk for serious side effects. 

To avoid any potential drug interactions, you should keep a list of all the drugs you are using (including prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, and herbal products) and share it with your doctor and pharmacist. 

Drugs with known interactions:

  • Beta blockers
  • Insulin
  • Indomethacin
  • Warfarin
  • Anticholinergics

For your safety, do not start, stop, or change the dosage of any drugs without your doctor’s approval.

Does food or alcohol interact with glucagon?

Glucagon may interact with food or alcohol by altering the way the drug works or increase the risk for serious side effects. Please discuss with your doctor or pharmacist any potential food or alcohol interactions before using this drug.

What health conditions may interact with glucagon?

This drug may interact with underlying conditions. This interaction may worsen your health condition or alter the way the drug works. Therefore, it is important to always let your doctor and pharmacist know all the health conditions you currently have, especially:

Understand the Dosage

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. Therefore, you should always consult with your doctor or pharmacist before using any medication.

What is the dose for an adult?

Usual Adult Dose for Hypoglycemia

1 mg given via SC, IM or IV injection. Administer oral carbohydrates (such as candy or soft drinks) once the patient has responded. 

If there is no response w/in 10 min, give IV glucose. Glucagon dose may be repeated if necessary.

Usual Adult Dose for Diagnostic

Diagnostic aid in radiographic examination of stomach, duodenum, and small bowel when diminished intestinal motility would be advantageous:

For relaxation of stomach, duodenal bulb, duodenum, and small bowel: 1 mg. 

For relaxation of colon: 1-2 mg.

What is the dose for a child?

Usual Pediatric Dose for Hypoglycemia

<25 kg: 0.5 mg; 

≥25 kg: Same as adult dose.

How is glucagon available?

Glucagon is available in the following dosage forms and strengths:

  • Powder for injection (with diluent) 1 mg vial

What should I do in case of an emergency or overdose?

In case of an emergency or an overdose, call your local emergency services or go to the nearest emergency room.

What should I do if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your regular dose as scheduled. Do not take a double dose.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Written by

Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD


Updated Jun 11, 2021

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